It is not every day that someone makes a leap from a sub-$100 quartz watch to a haute-horlogerie timepiece with a price tag of $75,000. But that’s exactly what a client of up-and-coming watch brand HYT did in 2013, to the surprise of even HYT CEO Vincent Perriard.
“Independent brands like ours are never one’s first ‘serious’ watch. Our watches are usually what you get after you have everything else,” says Perriard, recalling the one time he encountered an exception to the rule. “It was an American guy; he had a Timex watch. He’s very rich but he doesn’t give a damn about watches. But he’s a big fan of innovation, and he fell in love with our technology after reading about us in a magazine.”
Bagging the Innovation prize at the prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve when it was launched in 2012, HYT’s signature is a unique hydro-mechanical time-telling system. Developed by nuclear engineer Lucien Vouillamoz, the technology uses fluorescent liquid in thin tubes to indicate the time. Since last September, the brand has been exclusively available here at Sincere Fine Watches.
Speaking to The Peak at its year-old showroom here, Perriard has a candour characteristic of independent brand chiefs. Even so, it is a rare luxury-watch CEO who will matter-of-factly describe one of his own products as “trendy” – as Perriard does when asked about the brand’s Skull series, a patently hip addition to a collection with an otherwise industrial-futuristic aesthetic.
Unveiled last January, the design features a skull motif, outlined by a time-indicating, liquid-containing tube. While it looks cool in its own right, the fact is that it employs a symbol that has been done to death (pardon the pun) by alpha-male watch brands ranging from Hublot to Richard Mille.
With a smile, the industry veteran – he has previously headed the brands Concord and Technomarine – says: “I know, you have seen skulls everywhere. With a brand like HYT, you have to find the right balance. We have pure innovation, like our liquid system, and crazy, complex watches like the H3 (which tells time via a linear liquid display and rotating cubes). But, sometimes, we have to reassure people who want something recognisable. Skulls are trendy, and people want skulls. I wouldn’t call it opportunistic, but, sometimes, you have to follow trends, and other times, you go against them.”